A miscarriage is a pregnancy that ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. It’s the most common type of pregnancy loss—anywhere from 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies will end in misscarriage. Chemical pregnancies account for 59-75% of all miscarriages. You can find information about chemical pregnancies here.
Most miscarriages occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and it’s important for every expecting mom (or woman trying to conceive) to know as much as they can about miscarriages, including the risks and treatment options. Remember—the absolute best source of information is your doctor.
Types of Miscarriage
Rather than a single event, miscarriage is usually a process and there are many stages and types of miscarriage. The more you know about healthy fetal development, the better idea you’ll have of what’s going on with your pregnancy. Understanding early fetal development, as well as first-trimester development, can help you know what to look out for, and what specifically you should be sharing with your doctor.
Most of the time, all types of miscarriage are just called “miscarriage,” but you may hear your doctor refer to other terms relevant to what’s going on. Here’s a break down of miscarriage types:
With a threatened miscarriage, there will be some degree of early pregnancy or uterine bleeding, along with cramping or lower backaches. The cervix will remain closed, and it’s important to note that bleeding is often simply the result of implantation.
An inevitable or incomplete miscarriage will result in abdominal or back pain, along with bleeding and an open cervix. When there’s a dilation or effacement of the cervix, and/or a rupture of the membranes, miscarriage is inevitable. Bleeding and cramps may persist if the miscarriage is not complete.
A complete miscarriage occurs when the embryo, or “products of conception,” has emptied out of the uterus. Bleeding should subside quickly, as should any pain or cramping, since the miscarriage is considered complete. This can be confirmed by an ultrasound, or by having a surgical curettage performed.
A missed miscarriage is when a woman has a miscarriage, but doesn’t know it. This essentially means that embryonic death has occurred, but there is no expulsion of the embryo—there isn’t an answer as to why this happens. Common signs of a missed miscarriage include a loss of pregnancy symptoms, and the absence of fetal heart tones in an ultrasound.
A reccurent miscarriage is defined as three or more consecutive first-trimester miscarriages, and can affect 1% of couples trying to conceive. It’s important to remember that a miscarriage does not mean you can’t go on to have a healthy pregnancy later.
A blighted ovum, or embryonic pregnancy, is when a fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall, but there is never any fetal development. Usually there will be a gestational sac with or without a yolk sac, but there’s also an absence of fetal growth.
During an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants itself somewhere other than the uterus, usually the fallopian tube. Treatment for this kind of miscarriage is needed immediately to stop the development of the implanted egg—if not treated quickly, it could result in serious maternal complications.
A molar pregnancy is the result of a genetic error during the fertilization process, and leads to the growth of abnormal tissue within the uterus. Rarely does a molar pregnancy involve a developing embryo, but often it does involve some of the most common pregnancy symptoms like a missed period, positive pregnancy test, or severe nausea.
Causes of Miscarriage
The most common cause of miscarriage during the first trimester is chromonosal abnormalities. This means that something is incorrect in the baby’s chromosomes. Most often, these abnormalities are caused by a damaged egg or sperm cell, or possibly due to a problem at the time that the zygote went through its division process.
Other possible causes can include (but aren’t limited to) hormonal problems, infections, or maternal health problems. Maternal age or trauma can contribute to miscarriage as well. Lifestyle choices, including smoking, drug use, malnutrition, etc. can cause miscarriage, as well as problems with implantation.
Some things that are proven not to cause miscarriage include sexual intercourse, working outside (unless the environment is dangerous or harmful), or moderate exercise.
Signs of Miscarriage & Prevention
Below are some common signs of miscarriage—if you experience any or all of them, you should call your doctor right away.
- Mild to severe back pain, often worse than regular menstrual cramps
- Weight loss
- White-pink mucus
- True contractions, i.e. very painful and occurring every 5-20 minutes
- Brown or bright red bleeding, with or without cramps
- Tissue with clot-like material passing
- A sudden decrease in signs of pregnancy
Unfortunately, with chromosomal abnormalities being the most common cause of miscarriage, there isn’t much you can do to prevent them. One thing you can control, however, is being as healthy as possible before conceiving. This way, you’re providing the healthiest possible atmosphere for conception to occur. That includes exercising regularly, eating healthy, managing your stress, keeping your weight within healthy limits, taking folic acid every day, and not smoking.
Once you find out you’re pregnant, there are even more things you should try to do in order to stay as healthy as possible while your baby develops. Keep your abdomen safe, don’t drink alcohol, eliminate caffeine, avoid environmental hazards (like radiation, infectious disease, or x-rays), avoid contact sports or activities with a risk of injury, and check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.
Unfortunately, miscarriage can affect anyone. It’s a very emotional thing to go through, and you might be left with a lot of questions and insecurities. It’s very important to keep your lines of communication open with those close to you, and your doctors—you aren’t alone, and this does not mean that you can’t go on to have a happy, healthy pregnancy.
For more information and support, contact RMC today.